Philadelphia, PA – An old English proverb says, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” That simple concept may be what makes the Hellenic Hearts Nonprofit Organization different from other Greek organizations in Philadelphia.
The newly formed foundation hosted its first fundraiser this past Saturday evening at Estia Restaurant. Some 120 Hellenes, Philhellenes, and friends attended. They got to meet the board and founding members. John Aivazoglou and Tim Vlassopoulos spoke about the direction of the organization and its platform that is still in development.
Like many other historical Greek organization in the Delaware Valley, they plan on giving out scholarships and providing monetary assistance for those experiencing hardship. It’s an old recipe that established groups follow during the holidays and spring season when schools are letting out. You apply to an organization via website or form. It’s likely that your families connected to or are familiar with them. You attend their annual banquet and get your check. A few photos for posterity with the board and family – done. It’s a great way to help young Hellenes.
“But Hellenic Hearts will be different,” says founding member Tim Vlassopoulos. “In addition to scholarships, we will be providing for people in need; we will create SAT training classes and mentoring for the future. We will assess where our support will help do the most. Funding will go to those that are in need and can best achieve value from the foundation”, added Vlassopoulos.
The “Educational Program” will likely be the Hellenic Hearts flagship program. This is a chance for kids to structure their future careers and businesses. SAT programs and possibly internships will be offered. This sets a precedent for a Greek organization not like any other we’ve seen in the area. Of course, this is still in a preliminary stage and stands yet to be seen.
But rest assured, on Saturday night, the Hellenic Hearts unleashed their young shining star Director of the Education Louie Karapanagiotides. Karapanagiotides addressed the guests at the fundraiser with great poise and laid out the vision he’s had for a while. The Wharton school graduate is a GOYA basketball coach and member of the Upper Darby Greek community where he grew up. “While coaching basketball, I started to listen to the kids’ conversations, and noticed these young men were undecided about their future and how to approach it”, said Karapanagiotidis. “For the last several years I wanted to help. I’ve been mentoring many of them privately about life, education and giving them direction. I saw there was a huge gap and need to help our young people. When John Aivazoglou and the Hellenic Hearts came to me to join, I explained my education outreach program concept. They loved it and here we are today”, says Karapanagiotides.
“We also want to teach kids to strengthen and build our community by giving back. This gives them a greater sense of responsibility for the future and broadens their vision,” says Karapanagiotides. “Board members will work with each student to mentor and monitor a community service projects we will approve,” added Karapanagiotides. Although it’s yet to be defined, these criteria will be part of the “giving back process” for each student that gets help.
It’s certainly not a new global concept, but one that’s much needed here in the Philadelphia Greek community. For years now, many Greek organizations have been giving out scholarships and support to its young people, with no return. In fact, most churches and organizations continue to decline in population. By launching this concept, Karapanagiotides Educational program will likely create an opportunity for a cycle to catch on for the future. And by empowering young people through education and give back, It reiterates the old proverb we mentioned earlier for the next generation. “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”